Thursday, June 12, 2008

Degrees of unhappiness

In the news business, and especially in the newspaper business, each season brings a collection of evergreen story topics. January sees polar-bear swims and Martin Luther King day. In February, it's valentines and groundhogs. And so on.

We seem to be seeing a new summertime theme: College graduates utterly unprepared for the Real World, astounded that their sparkling new degrees, acquired through undeniable hard work and at appalling expense, have not translated into fulfilling yet lucrative positions.
Chronic financial instability weighs on philosophy major
[Scranton Times Tribune]

“I’ve been working since I was 15 and I still have nothing,” said Ms. Pollack, 28. “It seems like that’s always the situation, even when I have a job. I have no money because I’m giving it to everybody else.”

A student of philosophy, she is frustrated by the domineering hold the greenback has, but resigned to the task at hand — to find a way to make a livable income and one day rise above the stacks of bills to enjoy an existence free from worry over the smallest everyday expenses.
I've commented on this phenomenon before, of course. Instead of making fun of this newest example (I really don't have the heart), I'll just say what I've said before:

The blame lies with the student herself, and with her advisors. My own journalism school advisor told me that my intended minor subject (art) would not help me find a job, and all but made me change it to political science, a subject I hated then and hate now. (I didn't really want to be a reporter: I wanted to work in production. I wanted to make the newspaper look better.)

I would suggest that philosophy advisors, distateful as it may be (not to mention running counter to your self-interest), ask your students how they expect to make money with a degree in philosophy. You can't make 'em act on it, but you can at least put the question in their heads. They trust you, and they don't deserve to be rudely surprised the day after commencement.

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